10 years ago, on 13 December 2011, the Armed Forces Covenant was signed by county leaders and representatives from the Armed Forces in Hertfordshire. The Armed Forces Covenant is a promise to the nation that those who are serving or have served in Her Majesty’s Armed Forces are treated fairly. Signing this document in Hertfordshire pledged commitment to uphold this promise locally and kick started the formation of the Hertfordshire Armed Forces Covenant Board.
Today, the Hertfordshire Armed Forces Covenant Board brings together business, military organisations, charities, NHS and local authorities who work in partnership to ensure that no veteran faces a disadvantage when accessing public services, the Armed Forces community is honoured and celebrated for the sacrifices they have made, and the military and civilian communities are well integrated.
Since 2011 the Hertfordshire Armed Forces Covenant Board has ensured the Armed Forces community is celebrated during Armed Forces Week held annually in June. Throughout the years the Board has commemorated the sacrifices our Armed Forces have made through laying commemorative stones in memory of those who were awarded the Victoria Cross during the First World War, as well as marking Remembrance Day annually.
Other work has focused on fair access to services and in 2017 training was provided for over 100 front line staff working across the county in both the statutory and voluntary sector. This training increased awareness of the Covenant and the particular needs of the Armed Forces community specifically around housing issues. Following this, District and Borough Councils made changes to housing allocation policy ensuring that former spouses or civil partners of serving personnel are exempt from rules requiring them to be a local resident to ensure they are not disadvantaged if applying for social housing.
In recent years there has been a focus on removing barriers to veteran’s access to healthcare in Hertfordshire with the Board commissioning a survey of veterans conducted by Healthwatch Hertfordshire and funded by Hertfordshire Public Health. The results of this survey led the Board to focus on promoting awareness within the NHS to increase understanding of the needs of the Armed Forces community. Just this month an additional project with Herts Help was launched to reach out to isolated members of the Armed Forces community, and their carers, helping them to access community support, information & advice, as well as practical support to help maintain independence, and improve health and wellbeing.
Hertfordshire has been successful in bids for around £80,000 of funding awarded from the Armed Forces Covenant Fund Trust for projects supporting the Armed Forces community like providing a new pastoral centre for a Hertfordshire primary school and a sailing programme for military and civilian families.
Cllr Terry Douris, Chairman of the Hertfordshire Armed Forces Covenant Board said,
“Over the last decade the Hertfordshire Armed Forces Covenant has brought together key organisations in the county to support and improve the lives of our local Armed Forces personnel, veterans and their families. I am proud of the achievements we have made and we will continue to make strides to ensure that Hertfordshire remains a welcoming place for our Armed Forces community.”
Some of the highlights of the work of the Hertfordshire Armed Forces Covenant Board can be seen on our website.